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Meningococcal Vaccine

By

Margot L. Savoy

, MD, MPH, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
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The meningococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (meningococci). Meningococcal infections can lead to meningitis (an infection of tissue covering the brain), dangerously low blood pressure (shock), and death. These bacteria are the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children and the second leading cause of bacterial meningitis in adults.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Meningococcal vaccine information statement.

There are several specific types (called serogroups) of Neisseria meningitidis. Meningococcal vaccines protect against the serogroups that cause most meningococcal disease (serogroups A, B, C, W, and Y). Three formulations of the meningococcal vaccine are available in the United States:

  • The conjugate vaccine (MCV4, protecting against serogroups A, C, W, and Y) is preferred for people aged 9 months to 55 years and is used for routine childhood vaccination.

  • The polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) is used only in certain people over age 55.

  • Meningococcal group B vaccine (MenB) is available to prevent infection by one type of meningitis bacteria that has become common in outbreaks among college students.

Administration of Meningococcal Vaccine

The MCV4 vaccine is a part of routine childhood vaccination and is given in two doses injected into a muscle. The first dose is given at age 11 to 12 years and the second dose at age 16 years.

The vaccine is also recommended for younger children who are at increased risk of meningococcal infection, such as those without a functioning spleen and those with certain immunodeficiency disorders. The minimum age for the vaccine varies from 6 weeks to 9 months, depending on the formulation used.

The MPSV4 vaccine is given in one dose injection under the skin.

The MenB vaccine is given in two doses injected into a muscle. It can be given to people 10 years of age or older who have certain high-risk conditions. However, it may also be given to anyone 16 to 23 years of age who wants it, even if they do not have certain high-risk conditions and are not at increased risk of getting the infection. The preferred age for vaccination is 16 to 18 years.

The meningococcal vaccine is also recommended for the following adolescents and adults:

  • People who do not have a functioning spleen (including sickle cell disease)

  • People with HIV infection

  • People with certain immunodeficiency disorders

  • People who take eculizumab or ravulizumab (drugs that block the complement system)

  • Microbiologists who are routinely exposed to the bacteria

  • Adolescents if they have not already been vaccinated

  • All first-year college students who live in dormitories who are 21 years old or younger and who have not been given a dose of the vaccine on or after their 16th birthday

  • All military recruits

  • Travelers to or residents of areas where the infection is common

  • People who have been exposed during a meningitis outbreak

If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?).

Side Effects of Meningococcal Vaccine

The injection site may become sore, swollen, and red. Some people have headaches and feel tired. A few people have a fever.

More Information

The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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